- The practice of journaling is linked to better mental and physical health outcomes, ranging from lower stress to better emotional regulation.
- Use Oura’s Tags features to review your day, including activities and emotions such as “anxiety,” “baby care,” “vacation,” or “late work.”
- Voice journaling, and having easy access to a journal on your phone, can help to reduce resistance to journaling – encouraging you to develop the habit more consistently to enjoy the benefits.
You’ve probably heard about the benefit of “getting it out on paper.” Journaling about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, has verifiable positive outcomes. While this idiom’s intention still rings true, there are now many ways of keeping a journal that go beyond pen and paper.
Journaling has become a more accessible practice, and now, more people than ever can benefit from it — both mentally and physically.
7 Benefits of Journaling Daily
1. It Can Lower Stress & Build Resilience
It may be stress-inducing to recall negative experiences, but it’s a temporary sensation that can make you more resilient. A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience found that journaling helped participants experience a new stressor as less stressful, attenuating their physiological and emotional response to it.
|Member Tip: If you notice your stress level is elevated on Oura’s Daytime Stress feature, taking a moment to journal may help you return to a “Relaxed” or “Restored” state.|
2. It Can Lead to Better Physical Health Overall
Journaling may help improve symptoms of autoimmune disease and other chronic conditions. When a group of 107 patients with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis were asked to journal for three consecutive days, nearly all of them showed a significant improvement in their symptoms.
Similarly, a study asked 103 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to journal using an online portal. After four consecutive days, the participants experienced an improvement in IBS severity and cognitive markers.
Additionally, journaling may lead to fewer visits to the doctor. One of the earliest studies conducted on journaling, published in 1986, asked a group of participants to write for 15 minutes about their deepest thoughts. The participants showed physiological arousal (higher blood pressure) immediately after writing, but, interestingly, they had better health markers and fewer doctor visits in the six months following.
This, the researchers hypothesize, is due to lower stress and better emotional regulation, which contributes indirectly to health outcomes.
3. It May Help You Sleep Better
You might notice that when you journal, you rack up Restorative Time on Oura. This is because taking time to reflect causes you to physically slow down. In fact, studies show that writing a specific list of incomplete tasks actually decreases sleep latency, helping you fall asleep quicker.
4. It Can Reduce Negative Thinking
Racing thoughts and worries can keep you up at night. Not only does this impact your sleep – over time, it can also impact your mental health.
According to the American Psychological Association, depression and anxiety are characterized by persistent negative or worried thoughts. Studies have shown that journaling can reduce negative rumination and even lead to more positive thinking patterns. Journaling provides a safe platform to express tough emotions or experiences. A simple, “how am I feeling today?” can be enough of an empathetic nudge to reflect on your emotional state and unravel underlying feelings.
5. It Can Boost Immunity
A study by Cambridge researchers found that a 15 to 20-minute journaling practice reduced blood pressure, improved lung and liver function, and reduced stress, which contributed to enhanced immune function.
LEARN MORE: How Oura Can Help Monitor Illness
6. It Can Help Regulate Emotions
Emotional regulation can have an indirect effect on health outcomes. It’s linked to better impulse control, enhanced cognitive performance, better personal relationships, and more. Expressing your thoughts and feelings via journaling can help you understand and process them. It can help you problem solve, reduce your mental load, and alleviate stress – a trifecta for emotional regulation.
7. It Can Cascade Into Other Healthy Habits
If your goal is to develop healthier habits, spending a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on your day can help you become more self-aware. This self-awareness can help you identify which of your habits are beneficial, and which ones might need changing. In a survey, 45% of respondents said that journaling makes them feel more in control of their health, with 68% saying it helps them better understand their health triggers.
Develop Your Own Journaling Habit
Common Obstacles to Journaling
As with any new wellness habit, knowing the benefits and putting it into practice are two separate things. You may notice resistance to journaling, much like that little voice in your head that tells you to skip the 7am workout class in favor of sleeping in. This push and pull between resistance and execution is what prevents many people from taking action and enjoying the positive outcomes.
Common obstacles that may prevent you from journaling include:
- Perfectionism: You may feel the need to journal flawlessly or produce profound insights. This pressure for perfection can stifle creativity and self-expression, making the process more stressful than relieving.
- Emotional resistance: Journaling often involves delving into your emotions and experiences. For some, facing these emotions can be intimidating or distressing. Fear of re-living or acknowledging negative emotions may act as a barrier.
- Uncertainty of outcome: Journaling can be an immediate release, but for others, the benefits are longer term. This uncertainty of outcome can be offputting to people who want a guarantee of clear benefits.
- Writer’s block: You may be experiencing big emotions, but when you put pen to paper, everything becomes blurry. This may be happening for any of the reasons above, or because you don’t know how to organize your thoughts. This can lead to frustration and ultimately discourage continued engagement with the practice.
- Lack of the right tools: Reflection may seem straightforward, but it still requires the right tools and systems in place. That might be using a notebook and pen, or an app – it still demands navigating through various options to find what suits you best. The abundance of choices can make the process feel overwhelming.
5 Tips to Journal More Consistently
1. Use Oura’s Tags Feature
These Tags track how certain factors affect your sleep and readiness. While tags don’t directly change your daily Sleep, Readiness, or Activity Scores, you can observe how your habits, behavior, daily choices, and environment impact your metrics by tagging and viewing these instances in your Trends charts.
The Oura App offers over 100 searchable tags, including ones for alcohol, caffeine, fasting, headache, late meal, meditation, melatonin, nap, period, sauna, sick, stress, and travel, among many others.
2. Don’t strive for perfection
Avoid getting bogged down with punctuation and style — remember, no one’s reading it but you! — to help your thoughts flow without interruption.
3. Make it a part of your wind-down routine
Most people have a wind-down routine before bed that might involve turning down the lights, taking a warm bath, or reading. Start to incorporate journaling into this routine so that it becomes second nature.
4. Start with the positives
If you do experience stress from reflecting on things that bothered you, opt to journal about the positives during your day, like playing with your cat or taking a walk around the block. Positive affect journaling can give you an immediate mood boost and lower stress.
5. Be patient with yourself
As with any new healthy habit, expect the benefits of journaling to come over time. Try to practice journaling daily for at least a week before you start to consider its effectiveness. A study found that it takes more than two months for a habit to stick on average – with a range of 18 days to 254 days. So be patient, keep it up.